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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 7, Issue 32: August 8, 2005

  1. "LIBERTY FOR LATIN AMERICA" -- Alvaro Vargas Llosa Transcript Now Available
  2. The ACLU Meets the FBI
  3. The "Liberty vs. Security" Myth

1) "LIBERTY FOR LATIN AMERICA" -- Alvaro Vargas Llosa Transcript Now Available

Latin America's political culture appears chaotic on the surface, but the deeper truth is that it is characterized by stability: the same fundamental (and fundamentally stifling) institutions have ruled for centuries, as Alvaro Vargas Llosa explained at the Independent Policy Forum on May 3rd, in a talk based on his recent book, LIBERTY FOR LATIN AMERICA: How to Undo 500 Years of State Oppression. A transcription of this event is now available at http://www.independent.org/events/detail.asp?eventID=109.

"We've preserved the same way of doing things, of organizing society, organizing power, organizing institutions, so that all these changes and all that instability is extremely superficial," Vargas Llosa said.

He then described five enduring institutions that have plagued Latin America since pre-colonial days -- corporatism, state mercantilism, privilege, wealth transfer, and political law -- and showed their continuing pernicious influence. Mexico's $70 billion financial crisis of the 1990s, for example, had its roots in government-created monopoly powers in banking.

Similarly, in Brazil in the 1990s when hundred of state enterprises were sold to the private sector, the new owners were given exclusive monopoly privileges; they were exempt from having to compete. Although many of the businesses were run a little better than under the government, the prices they charged were far higher than they would have been had individual rights -- including the right to compete against a newly "privatized" company -- prevailed. In addition, many Latin Americans now associate privatization with government corruption. The phenomenon of government-created monopoly privileges, tight labor laws, and weak judiciaries that don't (or can't) enforce the property rights is repeated in country after country.

Everything Latin American governments do "tends to do exactly the opposite of what it purports to do," said Vargas Llosa. "It creates a system of disincentives whereby anybody who's in a position to create anything, to contribute anything to society, is immediately dissuaded from doing so, because the system is corporatist, and mercantilist, and privilege ridden, and wealth transferring, and is dominated by political law. The only way to move ahead in society is to be close to power, to be in a position of privilege, to exclude others from competition, from entry into any market."

Despite Latin America's deep-seated problems, Vargas Llosa said the turnaround of several countries in other parts of the globe made him very optimistic. New Zealand lifted itself from poverty by seeking to abolish government-created privileges throughout its economy, and Slovakia and Estonia have blossomed over the past 15 years by embracing economic freedom.

See "Liberty For Latin America: How to Undo 500 Years of State Oppression," Independent Policy Forum featuring Alvaro Vargas Llosa (5/3/05)
http://www.independent.org/events/detail.asp?eventID=109

To purchase Alvaro Vargas Llosa's book, LIBERTY FOR LATIN AMERICA: How to Undo Five Hundred Years of State Oppression, see
http://www.independent.org/store/book_detail.asp?bookID=55

Center on Global Prosperity (Alvaro Vargas Llosa, Director)
http://www.independent.org/research/cogp/

"The Killing Machine: Che Guevara, from Communist Firebrand to Capitalist Brand," by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (NEW REPUBLIC, 7/11/05)
http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=1535
SPANISH TRANSLATION:
"La Máquina de Matar: El Che Guevara, de Agitador Comunista a Marca Capitalista"
http://www.elindependent.org/articulos/article.asp?id=1535

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2) The ACLU Meets the FBI

The FBI's recent admission in a federal court that it has assembled thousands of pages about non-violent activist groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union and various anti-war organizations, should come as no surprise to those familiar with the bureau's history. Since its inception it has snooped into the private lives of numerous political dissidents, peace activists, and more than a few outspoken celebrities (and a few soft-spoken ones, such as Albert Einstein). Now the ACLU is suing the FBI to obtain copies of its 1,173-page dossier on the ACLU, but the FBI says it will take at least eight months for it to "process" its ACLU documents.

If there is a surprise about the FBI's recent domestic intelligence gathering on peaceful foes of White House policies, it is that the ACLU didn't seem to see this predictable development coming, suggests Research Analyst Anthony Gregory in a new op-ed.

"Ironically, the ACLU, often seen as excessively pro-civil liberties, has been relatively mild in its criticisms of the war on terror since 9/11," writes Gregory. "It failed to oppose the USA PATRIOT Act when it was being adopted shortly after 9/11 and has yet to call for total repeal, instead advocating some accommodation of 'balancing liberty and security.'”

Gregory notes that the FBI blundered enormously in the months prior to the 9/11 terrorist attacks -- perhaps worst of all by failing to authorize the investigation of Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called "twentieth hijacker," as FBI agents in Minneapolis had urged to their superiors.

"After 9/11, the FBI was awarded new surveillance powers and larger budgets -- even though inter-bureaucracy squabbling and the FBI’s misunderstanding of its own guidelines, not a lack of resources, accounted for its failures leading up to 9/11," writes Gregory. "Now this same agency professes to protect us by amassing thousands of documents on non-violent political organizations. Does the FBI suspect that the ACLU is planning a terrorist attack? If not, why is the FBI wasting time and resources monitoring such groups when it admits it cannot process the information it already has?"

See "FBI, Please Protect Us from Terrorists and the ACLU," by Anthony Gregory (8/3/05)
http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=1544
SPANISH TRANSLATION:
"FBI, Por Favor Protégenos de los Terroristas y de la ACLU"
http://www.elindependent.org/articulos/article.asp?id=1544

For a transcript of the Independent Policy Forum, "PATRIOT Acts: I & II: The New Assault on Liberty?" featuring James Bovard, David Cole, Ivan Eland, and Margaret Russell (11/13/03), see
http://www.independent.org/events/detail.asp?eventID=93

Also see, AGAINST LEVIATHAN: Government Power and a Free Society, by Robert Higgs
http://www.independent.org/store/book_detail.asp?bookID=53

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3) The "Liberty vs. Security" Myth

“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety," Benjamin Franklin once said. Had Franklin witnessed U.S. policy since 9/11, he probably would have complained of seeing the same false alternative that he lamented more than two centuries ago.

In his latest op-ed, Ivan Eland, senior fellow and director of the Independent Institute's Center on Peace & Liberty, examines some of the false premises that have helped make the "liberty versus security" myth sound plausible.

"U.S. government officials, both politicians and career bureaucrats, always imply that a tradeoff exists between security and liberty and that we cannot have both," writes Eland in his latest op-ed. Unfortunately, this pseudo-tradeoff has rationalized a foreign-policy activism that, according to Eland, "ensures that Americans will see both their security and liberty eroded."

The Iraq war has diverted resources away from pursuing al Qaeda and Iraq itself has become a training ground for anti-U.S. jihadists. (The increased U.S. and British military presence in the Middle East seems to add recruit more suicide bombers by the day.) Domestically, the USA Patriot Act has broadened the federal government's surveillance powers even for non-terrorism cases. And new plans for the domestic deployment of the U.S. military have been reported.

"It is questionable whether these measures will actually either stop or increase the government’s ability to respond to a terrorist attack," writes Eland. "What is less questionable is whether these constrictions of liberty -- the foundation of our nation -- would have been needed or enacted if the United States wasn’t rampaging around the world tilting at imagined security threats and stirring the hornets’ nest in the process.

"Yet instead of toning down U.S. foreign policy and shrinking the bull’s eye painted on back of the American public, the administration has tried to assuage the public’s fears of losing their liberties by creating the toothless President’s Board on Safeguarding Americans’ Civil Liberties, a panel with few resources, no enforcement clout, and little presidential enthusiasm or backing. Even such window dressing to cover the needless loss of liberties would be unnecessary if the United States got rid of its outdated interventionist foreign policy, which is a relic of the Cold War," concludes Eland.

See "The Failed 'War on Terror,'” by Ivan Eland (8/8/05)
http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=1549
SPANISH TRANSLATION:
"La Fallida Guerra contra el Terror"
http://www.elindependent.org/articulos/article.asp?id=1549

To purchase THE EMPIRE HAS NO CLOTHES: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, by Ivan Eland, see
http://www.independent.org/store/book_detail.asp?bookID=54

To purchase PUTTING "DEFENSE" BACK IN U.S. DEFENSE POLICY, by Ivan Eland, see
http://www.independent.org/store/book_detail.asp?bookID=19

"The Way Out of Iraq: Decentralizing the Iraqi Government," by Ivan Eland
http://www.independent.org/publications/policy_reports/detail.asp?type=full&id=16

Center on Peace & Liberty (Ivan Eland, director)
http://www.independent.org/research/copal/

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